Gloucestershire leading the way in specialist stroke rehabilitation

Gloucestershire is leading the way in specialist stroke rehabilitation thanks to a centre of excellence approach, which is helping people recover more quickly and regain their independence.

In Gloucestershire, anyone suspected of having a stroke is quickly assessed and then treated in a specialist acute stroke unit at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. The unit offers medical care and therapist support for patients during their initial recovery period.

Some people may be able to go directly home within days to weeks with support from the community stroke team.

Patients who no longer need medical care but do require additional intensive rehabilitation can now move to a new specialist stroke rehabilitation unit, which opened at Vale Community Hospital, Dursley, in February 2019.

Debbie Gray, Commissioning Lead in Gloucestershire explains:
“Providing the right care in the right place for patients when they need it helps us improve people’s recovery, supporting them to regain as much independence as possible.

“In addition to weekly visits from a specialist stroke consultant, the specialist unit at The Vale offers support from rehabilitation staff including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, therapy support staff, dietitians and psychologists. This support gives patients the time and space to work towards the best possible recovery.”

The 14-bed unit has received excellent feedback from both patients and staff and it’s hoped that it will support around 150 patients each year.

Angela Dodd, Therapy Lead, Stroke and Rehabilitation at The Vale Community Hospital, said: “The unit provides a step down from the acute hospital to a quieter environment for patients.

“We set goals together with our patients and check on their progress regularly; our team meets each week to discuss patients’ recoveries and we have individual meetings with our patients and their carers to discuss their plans for getting back home.

“Patients enjoy using social areas to share mealtimes, and there’s also a therapy room and a kitchen where they can be assessed for coping with moving back home. We receive support from volunteer groups including the League of Friends and the Reconnect befriending service. We have an art group run by a local artist and a raised-bed area in the grounds for our gardening group.

“We’re seeing patients experiencing improved wellbeing in a number of ways – regaining their independence, better mobility, and a lift in mood after this life-changing event.”

The introduction of the new unit has also allowed Gloucestershire Royal hospital to improve care on the acute unit. Dr Kate Hellier, Consultant Stroke Physician said: “Fewer patients are staying in hospital but we’ve retained the same number of therapists on the acute unit, which allows us to offer a greater level of support than previously.

“The way patients return home or to the specialist rehabilitation unit at The Vale now feels much more efficient and effective as patients are getting better more quickly thanks to the increased intensive therapy we can now provide.

“Staff also appreciate the difference the changes have made and feel they are able to provide an even better quality of care than before.”

After patients are discharged from either the acute hospital or The Vale, they receive support at home from community stroke specialist nurses or the early supported discharge community team, made up of specialist therapy and nursing staff.

Debbie Gray added: “We are immensely proud of how far we have come and how we’re working together to give our patients the very best care. We have a countywide clinical group which is making a real difference to the way patients receive care, for example, community teams work closely with the hospital, therapists move between the different services and hospital consultants provide ward rounds at the rehab unit. It’s this joint approach which allows us to share expertise and give our patients the very best care.”